Posts

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before: Port FC 1-1 Chainat Hornbill

 

 

Football returned to the PAT Stadium after a month of intense, thrilling international footballing achievement thumb twiddling, with Port welcoming arguably our second most hated team, the Hornbills of Chainat. Regulars on the away terraces and this fine website might remember the away fixture earlier this season which resulted in a barrage of boos and harassment at the final whistle. At the time it felt like the lowest point of our season. Hoping this would serve as a constant reminder, and after the dismal showing at Prachuap, our boys needed to show some mettle. Another important factor was Police’s 4 goal capitulation to The Scum the night before, so a win was a must to keep up with the pace. 

Errr yeah, so about that “win”… Jadet chose to stick with the team from Wednesday’s defeat and in the opening exchanges Port played some neat football with Pakorn (7), carrying a little extra timber after a month of R&R, confounding his critics and sending a dangerous cross over to Boskovic (23) who couldn’t control his header. Then after 20 minutes Kevin darted to the byline and pulled back to Boskovic only for him to be crudely bundled over by Chatchon (6). Hands were raised appealing for a penalty but the ball quickly spilled to Suarez whose shot was blocked and it seemed as if the penalty appeal had been forgotten about. The crowd, sensing injustice, started chanting “VAR, VAR” and the referee, clearly thinking about leaving the stadium upright, duly obliged and consulted the gogglebox before awarding the penalty.

Now, when Dragan asserted himself and took the ball from captain Rochela’s (22) hands, you had to be impressed with the confidence of the man; his talent hasn’t shone as brightly as we had expected this season but his endeavour so far in the match had been commendable. The penalty that he attempted was somewhere between a “Tana” and a “Chakrit”; a lazy, half-assed failure of a faint that keeper Kritchana (1) saw straight through followed by a shot so tame even a corpse could have saved it. Chainat were now sensing an upset and duly upped their game with some smart wide play; Chatchai (15) sending in a dangerous low cross across goal for Dolah (4) to clear and then bollock Nurul (31) for failing to track back. Then another cross into the box saw Worawut (36) come off his line only to misjudge the flight and allow Diouf (20) to cushion his header over to Doumbia (11) who scrambled the ball into the net, then wheeled off to celebrate in front of The Pink Rangers (who are welcome to visit us anytime at the PAT Stadium). 

 

That sinking feeling

 

So 1-0 down when we should be 1-0 up and Jadet was forced to shuffle the pack with Nurul coming off, presumably injured, at half time. What followed was an inept, shapeless 35 minutes of hustle and bustle with no end product. Boskovic decided to play in several positions – anywhere apart from centre forward – with little success, and Suarez and Kim decided to be the front 2 because playing 2 midfielders up front makes perfect sense. Pakorn, Nitipong (34) and Kevin (97) all tried to make something happen but nothing seemed to work, that is until the arrival of everyone’s favourite carthorse Arthit Boodjinda (29). Suarez dinked the ball towards the Chainat goal and Arthit fouled the defender made a nuisance of himself as Kritchana smacked the clearance into Parinya (13), leaving the way clear for Arthit to foul the defender again stroke the ball into an empty net. Chainat were clearly incensed after getting shafted by VAR in the first half so decided to complain until the referee gave into his desire to not visit the hospital straight after the match and consulted the television again. Port fans waited nervously, so while we wait let’s have 3 fun football facts about our dynamic second choice centre forward: 

 

3 Fun Football Facts about Arthit Boodjinda 

  1. “Arthit” is Thai for “Heskey”.
  2. Arthit pulls up his shorts so he can be 42.7% more aerodynamic.     
  3. Pele recently said this about Arthit: “He reminds me of a young, more elegant version of myself; the raw exuberance of youth coupled with the burning desire to win at all costs.”

 

After what seemed an eternity the referee gave Port the goal, and to be honest that was that; a few more attacks and crosses with no result and then it was back to The Sandpit for Leo, drums and flares. A draw seemed like a fair result especially as it feels like our team still hasn’t turned up since their enforced break and the regular failings are still present. Our team shape is a mess once substitutions are made and it’s clear that the communication from the bench to the pitch is not working and several players are having to suss out what to do with varying degrees of success. It’s too much of the same errors shown week in week out with no solution in sight. 

Young Pele

 

Next up is our trickiest fixture of the remaining matches of this campaign: a midweek clash in Chiang Rai. If we play anything like our last two matches we will be on the receiving end of a sound thrashing but knowing Port we could just make a few people eat their words. The players need to realise that there is still a lot to play for and our season petering out is not an option; there is still the longshot of AFC Champions League qualification, the highest points total achieved in the top division and, most importantly, the opportunity to finish above those scumbags from Legoland.  

 

The Sandpit Man of the Match – Elias Dolah 

 

 

In a game that will be filed under ‘meh’ it was never going to be an offensive player claiming the plaudits. I’ve recently started tending to give this award to players who show heart rather than skill but Dolah’s performance was a solid combination of both, rarely putting a foot wrong and also reminding his teammates of their responsibilities on the pitch (something we have been sorely missing). Credit should also go to Nitipong, Kevin and goalscorer Arthit for their work but sadly too many players didn’t give the same amount of effort required to get the 3 points.

 

Walking on Broken Glass: Port FC 3-2 Bangkok Glass

 

“It’s a funny old game, Saint” Jimmy Greaves would opine to his co-presenter Ian St. John in almost every show of their longing running football programme “Saint & Greavsie” during the 1980s and early 90s on British TV. Saint would flash one of his trademark grins and with a light chuckle concur “Sure is Greavsie, sure is.” This classic exchange got me thinking during Port’s match with Bangkok Glass; here I am standing on the terraces of PAT Stadium in Bangkok watching a feisty and chaotic football match while thinking about obscure 80s television and another football match being played thousands of kilometres away in Russia.

 

 

Every 4 years we are blessed to experience what is essentially a second Christmas with the family bollocks replaced with glorious football, and in the midst of this the Thai football season is in full swing. So with a vibrant Port enjoying a thrilling season and England kicking off later, the pre-match atmosphere was especially enthusiastic. The news of Bodin (10) replacing the banned Boskovic (23)  greeted well and there was very little concern about our bogey team opposition who are going through an tortuous season in the relegation zone.

 

Credit: Nig Dammusig

 

Port started brightly and Pakorn (7), realising that Glass are a bottom half team this season, decided to go on the offensive and terrorise his markers from the off. In the fourth minute Suarez (5) sent over a great cross and Bodin forced a sharp save from Narit (1). Glass resorted to some crunching tackles to break up our play and cling onto the game but it was only a matter of time until the next chance. Kim (8), much better in an advanced role, dinked the ball wide to Kevin (97) and forced Narit to come off his line. Kevin expertly squared the ball to Nurul (31) but his shot was not fierce enough and Glass captain Matt Smith (4) calmly headed to ball back to Narit. A lucky escape.

Then confusion reigned, with the referee using VAR to award Port a penalty for handball off a Pakorn freekick. Chalermsak (3) was the culprit, with his arm raised to around head when he made the block. He saw yellow, but Rochela (22) stepped up and crashed the spot kick against the post. Port, to their credit, didn’t let their heads drop and continued to work hard. Their tenacity was rewarded in the 26th minute. Bodin, receiving the ball from Kevin, powered across his marker and unleashed a speculative low shot towards the bottom left hand corner. Narit got himself behind the ball but inexplicably allowed it to pass through him and into the net. Bodin respectfully didn’t break out the Fresh Prince moves against his former club, but he must have been delighted to have doubled his tally for the season!

 

 

As if the match wasn’t chaotic enough already, it then descended into farce in the final 5 minutes of the half. Nurul, played clean through on goal by Suarez, was clattered by Chalermsak, who received his second yellow and the following free kick lead to an unmarked Suarez slotting the ball into the net only for it to be unfairly ruled out for offside. Suarez, raging from this injustice, insisted the ref check with VAR but even after consulting the television and viewing a clearly onside goal he decided to stand by the linesman’s decision. Several farang fans, clearly dismayed by this and with the lure of England kicking off in 20 minutes, decided to vote with their feet and bugger off. Justice was finally served seconds later in first half injury time; Bodin seemed to have over-complicated his running into the box, but the ball broke loose and a lucky flick from Kim found Nurul, who made no mistake from a few yards out.

 

 

As is customary, your intrepid reporter missed Glass’ comeback goal at the start of the second half, too busy enjoying his halftime Leo (this season’s total currently stands at 8 goals missed). Glass moved the ball forward quickly and Ariel Rodriguez (7) took advantage of Port’s lack of concentration, making his way into the box and squaring the ball to Anon (27) who couldn’t miss from just outside the 6 yard box. These slips in concentration are something that needs to be worked on during training (as does my drinking speed) as more teams are becoming aware of how fragile we can be from the restart.

Port then edged closer to victory with a pearler of a free kick from Suarez over a less-than-10-yard wall into the top right hand of the goal in front of the Zone B faithful. El Mago is clearly brimming with confidence, ignoring Pakorn to sweep the ball into the net, after which the Midfield Monk had a quiet word with with captain Rochela. We can only speculate as to what as said! The second half continued to be a scrappy affair, punctuated with some hard work from Todsapol (6) and Kevin. Nurul kept making a nuisance of himself but it was obvious Bodin was struggling with his fitness, and Glass tried to take advantage of our fatigue and lack of shape. Their second goal in the 67th minute was scored with ease; Pichit (19) with time and space sent a cross into the box and new signing David Bala (10) sent a header into the bottom corner. Rattanai (17) slipped while trying to readjust his body shape but Bala’s header was too good to keep out.

Jadet sensibly sent on Dolah (4) and Arthit (19) to add some steel in the back line and up front, but Arthit wasted a glorious opportunity in the 80th minute, justifying his non-selection to the starting line up. Port continued fighting up to the final whistle and held on to the three precious points. By now the English contingent was buzzing with news that the Three Lions were 5-0 up and, with the inaugural Rat Bar Dash cancelled due to lack of facilities, we then embarked on a Wacky Races style race to The Sportsman (sponsors of this fine match report, folks). Sadly my car was more Slag Brother’s Boulder Mobile than Peter Perfect’s Turbo Terrific but we managed to make it for the final 20 minutes.

 

The author makes his way to The Sportsman

 

So what to make of Port’s performance? It was workmanlike and full of endeavour, but the goals conceded were terribly sloppy and the opposition should have been played off the park in the first half. Nevertheless, to Port’s credit they hung on and the improbable dream continues. Jadet clearly favours skill over power but in the second half several of our team were suffering from fatigue and this, plus the concentration issues, needs to be addressed swiftly. Also, while VAR may be effective at the world cup finals with an elite team of officials in a TV room with multiple screens and all the technology available at their fingertips, the Thai equivalent is clearly not working and as the level of officiating is still dire I can’t see this being a success anytime soon. Anyway, let’s not worry about this and instead bask in a glory of a wonderful day of football and the joyfulness of sleep deprivation and hangovers at work.

 

Man of the Match: Kevin Deeromram

 

 

In an ugly encounter punctuated with brief moments of skill it would be unfair to give the award to the attackers, although Nurul gave the Glass defenders a torrid evening and almost nicked the award. Honourable mentions must go to Nitipong (34), Siwakorn (16) and Kim but they all faded as their legs became leaden. Kevin’s workrate and quality has been questionable over the last few months but his performance against Glass was of the highest order and one of the main factors in getting his team over the line.

 

Port Pluck Three Points from the Eagles: Port FC 1-0 Ubon UMT

 

 

After Port’s glass was shattered by the Rabbits last week the faithful were hoping for a decisive win in this week’s match against Ubon to cement our case as contenders.

With health scares for all three first team keepers, it was great to see Worawut (36) starting with Rattanai (17) in reserve. One surprise in the lineup saw Athibordee (35) lineup at center back next to Rochela (22). With Wuttichai (8) out injured and Yossawat (32) on loan, Piyachart (99) was the only ex-Portman in the Ubon lineup.

 

Game Summary

 

From the opening whistle Port were the aggressors, with Ubon managing very little possession. The Ubon keeper was tested early with Kim (8) ripping a shot at him 3 minutes into the game. Soon after Bole (23) fired a great cross that was just a bit too far for Suarez (5) to reach. Within a few minutes we had our first use of VAR at PAT where a play was reviewed for might have been a possible handball offense. [Ed – someone in Zone B suggested that a Suarez elbow was under review, but we’re not sure either.] After about a minute of review time the crowd began to get a bit restless. Guess they share Tim Russell’s view of VAR! And after the delay… nothing happened and the game resumed.

Port’s dominance continued with Ubon conceding a few corners, one coming when the Ubon Keeper flubbed a kick that was intended to give possession back to them after one of the first of many feigned injuries. The rest of the first half was more of the same; Port dominating possession, taking it wide, attempting a cross, and coming away with nothing.

Ubon’s one opportunity came at the 40 min mark when Worawut was forced to make a save from an on-target Aguinaldo (9) header off a Piyachart free kick.

The second half started with more of the same with the addition of endless time wasting due to “cramps” and other assorted “injuries.” For Port it was again possession, cross, miss and corner, miss. At 70 min Bodin (10) replaced Bole and immediately created a chance, which was of course again missed. Two more subs were made before injury time, Panpanpong (19) for Kevin (97) and Arthit (29) for Nurul (31). With the 5, minutes, which could have been 10 with all the Ubon “injuries,” of injury time running out Arthit electrified the home crowd with an on-target header into the top left corner of the net off a Pakorn (7) corner. The joy and relief among the PAT faithful was immense.

 

 

My Observations

 

Athibordee was a pleasant surprise at center back. A midfielder by trade, he was drafted this week to try and shore up a rather shaky back line and he did quite a nice job.

Ubon were abominable. As our resident Rottingham Crotchspur supporter Tim Walker observed, Ubon started wasting time from the 27th minute. Faking injuries, enough cramps to reanimate Lux Interior, the keeper delaying the kick, etc., etc. And to add to it, we allowed them to do it by kicking the ball out of bounds when one of their players went down. I am still flabbergasted that teams choose to kick the ball out of bounds before the ref blows the whistle. I really think if teams stopped doing this we’d see less of these incidents that occur all too much in Thai football. Port were not totally innocent as Nurul and Suarez each had a few dives during the match. Nurul goes to ground way to easily and would do far better staying on his feet, especially in the box. No wonder so many potential local fans shun the league in favor of the EPL. Watching a poor English side park the bus for 90 min is preferable to the mess we saw at PAT.

A win is a win. We’ll take it. Good teams win or draw when they don’t play well. But in this case, well, we kind of did play well, but were unable to capitalize on our many opportunities, which was a replay of last week’s second half. In all honesty the Port offense is very predictable; take the ball outside, cross it, try to score. Lather, rinse, repeat. And just a few matches into the season, I am sure other teams know our style and are prepared as Ubon was to defend against it. We are winning, but it is our superior talent that is carrying us, not our teamwork or our game plan. We can ride this only so far as we saw last week. We should have been up 2-0 at the half this week and scored another two against this very poor side in the second half, but instead we were left waiting for the miracle that occurred in the last minute, which truthfully is not a very convincing way to play and does not inspire confidence. For a talented squad, creativity is very low and I really don’t see that changing under the current regime. We’re a good team in a league with lots of mediocre teams. We can stake out a high finish on talent and individual effort alone, but if we want to get to the top, we’re going to have to play a different brand of football; one that we have never seen from a Port side. One that the top teams play. After watching two of those teams, BU and Buriram play each other Saturday night, I think Port have a ways to go before we can really consider ourselves contenders for the throne.

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

 

Man of the match should go to the player who made the difference in the game, and that could only be one player, Arthit Boodjinda, the only Portman who was able to hit the target against a dismal Ubon side. It was a very good header.

 

Song of the Match

 

From The Cramps!

 

 

Three is the Magic Number: Port FC 3-2 Ratchaburi FC

 

Saturday 24th February saw Port in a strange scenario. What’s the scenario? Top of the league and two wins from two games. We all know two games into a season you can’t tell that much about a team, but more important than the two wins has been the style of the victories. Port have fought and looked good in both matches. PAT all too often a field of screams is turning into some sort of Klong Toei gangsta’s paradise for Jadet’s geto boys.

The immediate pre-match talk was about the absence of Kim Sung Hwan (8). When I heard the news, I was definitely thinking oh shit I’ll be missing you, and our midfield will be missing you too. Against Muangthong, Kim showed he can marshal the midfield and give Siwakorn (16) the freedom to distribute the ball and sett up Port’s attacking moves like a grandmaster of Chessboxin’. So the team news saw Port’s first knock back of the day. Fitting on a day that was to see Port switch from Jim’s high enthusiasm to Hockers’ high anxiety every other minute.

I thought we might see a defensive Ratchaburi tie up Port and try a Whodini escape from PAT with a point. So I was shocked by the frenetic pace of the first five minutes. Port were impressive, but Ratchaburi were raising their game as they were out to impress. They were all well aware that their new coach was in the stands and everyone was trying stake a claim for their spot in the team. The first shock came with the first shot from Ratchaburi. It came on 12 seconds with the ball being blasted into a defender. Ratchaburi had come here to play. 25 seconds later Nitipong (34) was scythed down by Satsanapong (35). The ref chose not to go for a yellow and waved away the Port protest delegation. This terrible decision set the tone for the game and saw 10 minutes of players thinking “Well if he’s not going to give a yellow for that, what will he give a yellow for?” Tackles flew in like it was the wild wild west and each player pushed the definition of the phrase ‘shocking yet legitimate tackle’.

Unfortunately the number 1 chief shocka of the first 10 minutes was Suarez (5). After being fouled by Sami (3) he seemed to slap the hand of the referee away. Was Suarez trying to point something out to the referee with his hand and just ended up hitting him by mistake? Or was he saying, I’m gonna knock you out? This could be seen as a mistake, or assault. With this ref no one was sure which way he would go. The only thing to come Suarez’s way was a rebuke and an audible sigh of relief reverberated around me in Zone B. As the game unfolded, most fans would see a gentle slap of the arm as scant punishment for a refereeing performance that could generously be called erratic and honestly be called slapworthy.

On 6 minutes Rosima Amancio (90) who goes by the name of “Bill” showed Port he has a few South American skills, even if his nickname is more South London. An interesting character with moves as smooth and deadly as Bushwick Bill’s rhymes, but in sporting terms his physique was more mid 70’s snooker legend Bill Werbeniuk. His jinking run was desperately blocked by Dolah (4) hitting him high and Rochela (22) hitting him low. The run set off more alarm bells in the Port defence, with some thinking maybe we could just shoot em up. I’m sure the ref would only give a yellow for that today.

Port and Ratchburi both continued creating and missing chances: Boskovic (23) scooped the ball high into Zone D and Ratchaburi hit a shot straight at Worawut (36). Finally about 10 minutes in the number 16 clattered into a player and he went flying into the air. To the surprise of everyone it was the Ratchaburi  number 16 Gionata Verzura that managed to get his name in the book first, with waiflike Siwakorn being the one upended. Role reversal for Siwakorn who has been a lot more careful with his fouling in 2018: Kim is a good influence on him.

Port’s best early chance came on ’13 with a Pakorn (7) free kick drifted in to Suarez (5). He trapped and turned sweetly to beat the keeper, but not the post. 3 minutes later Pakorn would hit the woodwork again with a trademark inswinging corner that swung too much too soon.

Hitting back, Philip Roller (33) drew a spectacularly exaggerated, yet still needed save from Worawut. The following corner was put over the bar and another shot from a corner was blasted wide of Port’s goal soon after. Port might rue their chances going astray, but they could be equally happy Ratchaburi were squandering their chances too. The attacking right back vs. attacking left back, Kevin (97) vs Roller, was a one of the mini battles going on all over the pitch that made this game so fascinating, the two young players sniping at each other for 90 minutes.

The game saw another one-two punch of missed chances with Menezes (20) putting the ball over the bar and Boskovic having a one on one with the keeper. He tried to drill it in, but only found the keeper’s outstretched leg. Next it was the ever industrious Nurul (31) having a go. Rather than the keeper Nurul managed to hit Siwakorn’s head and the crowd wondered how on earth this game was still 0-0.

On ’35 Kang Soo-il (10) went for a theatrical dive trying to get hardworking Adisorn (13) booked. When a yellow card didn’t come he cupped his ear and asked Zone C for a bit more noise. I’m sure Kang grew sick of the constant booing that followed him around for the next hour. You asked for it Kang, so you got.

Two more Port free kicks resulted in nothing and it felt like this half didn’t want a goal. Then an exquisite move saw Bill (90) tap the ball with the outside of his boot, dissecting 3 Port defenders on the edge of the box. Then a sweet back heel from Chuitpol (7) to cue up Pathomchai (31), and he slotted it into the bottom corner past Worawut. At least it was a great goal that spoiled Port’s 220-minute clean sheet.

Speaking of exquisite goals, after a ricocheting free kick fell to Chutipol (7) I’m sure he thought all was well with the world, and he would just hoof the ball away. Not so when you have Ninja Nurul next to you. Nurul picked Chutipol’s left pocket and tapped him on the right shoulder, and before Chutipol knew which way to turn Nurul was guiding that ball into the far corner. As the keeper fell to the ground Nurul was completing his celebration somersault, handing out notes to novice ninjas, stamping fans tickets as they left for half time and posting Ask Nurul Ninja videos on Youtube. This little man can do everything. It’s great to see Nurul putting in an early claim for goal of the season. And it’s no more than he deserves. Nurul works his arse off, somehow channeling the spirit of Genki’s work ethic and Saruta’s ball skills and then sprinkling in some ancient Ninja magic. He is the Nine Carat Gold Ninja – is that a thing? I don’t know. If it isn’t it should be.

For readers who would like to make their own “Nine Karat Gold Ninja” flick book we have provided pictures.

 

 

1-1 at half time, and everyone walked out thanking god for Nine Carat Gold Ninjas. Everyone also knew Port and Ratchaburi were going to come out looking for more goals in the second. The second half started with Ratchaburi trying to take back the initiative with a few chances.

 

The Shook Ones Part II

The Kevin vs. Roller battle that had been raging all day was set off again by a good quick throw in from Pakorn down the left wing. Roller tussled with Kevin hacking at his ankles and pulling his shirt. Kevin held him off, then strong-armed him just enough to give himself some room. He fed the ball through Roller’s legs onto Suarez running in at the near post. Suarez thumped the ball in. On a day when players needed to stamp their authority on their part of the turf Kevin and Suarez delivered the perfect counter punch to their opposite numbers. Port up 2-1 and Roller left scratching his head as to how to stop a player who doesn’t fall down at any given opportunity. Kevin stood up and looked Roller square in the eyes and said “it’s my turn, I demand my respect, Give me my burn, or get slammed in your neck” (yes, he definitely said that, I heard it).

Before the next corner with Chutipol receiving treatment, Suarez wandered over to drink some of the water by Ratchaburi’s goal. He picked up two bottles, one for himself and one to throw into Zone B. It’s often small things that turn a crowd for or against a player. Kang Soo-il (10) had cupped his ear and was still getting boos every time he touched the ball. With Suarez’s gesture he managed to deprive Ratchaburi of some water, and give the crowd a laugh and one kid a souvenir of the game.

 

 

As more space opened up for Pakorn on the right Suarez picked him out twice with brilliant cross-field passes. One move did create a chance for Nurul, with the ball looping up in the air the whole crowd held its breath. Nurul tried an audacious Ninjaesque bicycle kick. Surely he can’t score such a goal? Yes, you’re right he couldn’t – it went wide proving he is a ninja but still human.

 

 

Always a bright sign the crowd saw Bodin (10) warming up on the sidelines. I thought Pakorn was coming off, but it was Suarez who would eventually make way for Bodin. Then Boskovic broke through the midfield and Port had a great chance. Even with two defenders chasing yards behind him and one coming across to meet him I would still have put money on Boskovic shooting and indeed scoring with such a good sight on goal. However Boskovic looked up and played the percentages. He calmly squared it to a wide open Suarez who sided footed it causally in to the back of the net making it 3-1 to Port. Time for everyone, bar Hockers, to relax and breathe a bit easier knowing a two goal cushion was in place.

 

 

As I was explaining to Hockers that a two goal lead with 20 minutes to go was something to be enjoyed with carefree happiness, he explained joy has no place in football ’til the final whistle. As I was mid speech extolling the joys of life, Ratchaburi hit the post, reminding everyone, bar Hockers, this lead could still fall apart. Chances continued coming ten a penny, but fortunately none were going in.

On ’72 Suarez exited to cheers from all zones and even Tim (just polite applause from me – Ed). Bodin entered into the fray with Ratchaburi having another pot shot at the Port goal, and Hockers tutted at the other 7,999 fans who had happily thought this match had been put to bed. Menezes who had created so many chances for Ratchaburi found Kang Soo-il to deliver his own dose of My Medicine to Port. 3-2 and the thought that Port might let a good lead slip away like so many 2017 games reared its ugly head.

At the restart the ref called Captains Sami and Rochela into the centre circle. He made them shake hands to try and foster a bit of peace in a tense game. As they were shaking hands I’m sure they were both shaking their heads too, thinking this game would be a lot more peaceful with a decent ref.

The last ten minutes of the game saw both teams slow down a bit, looking like two prize fighters who had been beating the hell out of each other for 127 rounds. Nurul had a good shout for a penalty on ’86. After re-watching it oddly the ultra-biased Port eyes had it spot on. 100% nailed-on penalty. As Port ran out winners today it will be forgotten pretty quickly, but had Ratchaburi scored a late equaliser this report would have been a 3000 word dissertation on the incident and the sad tale of how Port were robbed of 3 points. It wasn’t, we weren’t. The last minutes saw the Grandmaster Flash himself Terens Puhiri (28) make a two minute appearance. It would be good to see the Flash for the last 10 minutes of a game to see if he can convert his pace into some genuine chances for Port. I hope Jadet gets the message.

At the end of the day it was three that was the magic number for Port: 3 goals tonight, 3 points in the bag again, 3 wins in a row.

Maybe you can subtract it
You can call it your lucky partner
Maybe you can call it your adjective
But odd as it may be
Without my 1 and 2 where would there be my 3

 

Sandpit Man of the Match: Sergio Suarez

My 3 of the night would be Suarez, Nurul and Kevin. Siwakorn also had a great game, the defence held up well against a tough attack. As it’s man of the match not men of the match, I’ll have to go with Suarez. On a day when Port needed battlers he battled and delivered two goals. He also delivered a free bottle of water for Zone B – nice touch.

 

(Just in case you wondered, it’s the Kool Moe Dee’s wild wild west, not the Will Smith version, just so you check yourself before you wreck yourself.)

 

Chiang Why? Nont Denies Port: Port FC 1-2 Chiang Rai United

 

Port put in their best performance so far under new manager Zico, but came up just short against high-flying Chiang Rai. An inspired goalkeeping performance from Nont Muangngam (20) in the Chiang Rai goal and profligate finishing from Port’s forwards swayed a game which, had it been decided by any other metric, would have been a crushing victory for the home side. Unfortunately for Port goals win games, and Port’s ability to convert their chances was desperately lacking, as it has been for much of the season. We also bumped in to former Port *sob* now Police Tero defender Niran Hansson before kick-off, who told us he is getting along well at his new club. “Well, I’m playing!” he said. Quite.

 

 

Port started the game confidently, getting the ball wide quickly and efficiently, with Suarez (5) dropping back in to midfield where he is more comfortable and has more influence on the game. Ittipol (7) was also looking strong, but he was perhaps too strong in the tackle on Chiang Rai captain Tanaboon (17), who was stretchered off and taken straight to hospital after a clash with the veteran Port midfielder early on. Unfortunately, I am told it’s a serious potentially season-ending injury for Tanaboon, so we at The Sandpit wish the national team regular a speedy recovery.

 

 

In the 10th minute Suarez spread the play wide to Nitipong (34), who teed up Pakorn (9) for a trademark right-footed cross which Genki (18) headed over the diving ‘keeper and in to the net. The crowd went wild, Genki wheeled away in celebration and it was a few seconds before anyone realized that the linesman’s flag was raised. Replays showed that he was spot on, with Genki a fraction offside.

Port were undeterred though, using the same formula just a minute later. This time Josimar (30) couldn’t quite get a touch on Pakorn’s cross, but Genki followed up at the far post, and must have thought he’d scored with a well-struck right footed effort. Somehow, Chiang Rai’s 20 year old Thai-French ‘keeper Nont – a product of the AS Nancy youth system and a former Under 17 international for the Frogs – got some body part or other in the way (it looked like his head to me), and Port were again denied.

Next it was Chiang Rai’s turn to attack, and this time Worawut (36) in the Port goal was called on to make a flying save, denying midfielder Sivakorn (21, no, not our Siwakorn, their Sivakorn) with a superb reaction stop. The resulting corner – delivered by Sivakorn – was a lesson in set-piece organization from the visitors. Chiang Rai moved two attackers in front of Worawut, and with their markers that was 4 obstacles for Worawut to find his way past. The ball was delivered to an area Worawut may have been able to reach unobstructed, but with the traffic in his way he never stood a chance. He came halfway then stopped in no man’s land, but to be fair he probably wouldn’t have saved Prathum’s (5) header anyway, which was deposited with precision in to the bottom left corner.

With Port feeling like they could have been 2-0 up minutes earlier, the goal was a real gut-shot. Nevertheless, Port persevered and were quickly back on top. In the 42nd minute, Port won a free-kick within Pakorn range, but the winger’s effort missed to the left, with Nont looking like he had it covered anyway.

The second half started with some highly suspect defending from Panpanpong (19), who headed a ‘clearance’ straight up in the air. He was lucky Rochela (22) bailed him out with an aerial challenge on the line, and that was far from the only time El Capitan came to his left back’s rescue in the second half. Regularly caught out too far up the pitch, Panpanpong was slow to get back, and was probably the only member of the starting XI who had a bad game.

Pakorn, on the other hand, was having a stormer. His crossing was deadly and his forward runs were incisive and created real danger. He even put in a shift defensively! The rumours of Mongkol’s arrival at Port may well have been the motivation he needed to up his game, as he’s been superb ever since. In the 52nd minute, a jinking run from Pakorn gave him the chance to shoot from the edge of the area, but stretching slightly he didn’t quite catch it right and Nont made a fairly comfortable save.

Just a few minutes later, Port’s dominance finally paid off. Indecisive defending from former Port player Atit (2) lead to the ball bounced up on to his hand, and after a little hesitation, during which Josimar launched a shot on goal which was deflected over the bar – the referee pointed to the spot. At the time, I assumed that the penalty was given for the deflection on Josi’s shot, which would have been extremely harsh, but the original handball was clear from the referee’s vantage point, and he was absolutely right to award the spot-kick.

In the usual mess of whinging defenders that occurs whenever a penalty is awarded, Chiang Rai’s captain and goalscorer Prathum was in a particularly trollish mood. He stood in front of goal for ages for no apparent reason, during which time I may or may not have suggested that Dolah (4) take a particularly violent course of action against him. This may or may not have also been captured on video. Oh well, serves him right the cheeky git!

 

Anyone who goes for the bleached-braided look has got to be used to handling some abuse from the terraces…

 

Rochela was far less flustered than me though, and slotted his penalty in to the bottom right corner. The diving Nont got a hand on it and wasn’t far from keeping it out, but Rochela – as usual – was not to be denied from the spot. Port were back on level terms with more than 30 minutes still to go, and were now favourites to take all 3 points. Port didn’t let up for a minute, and were straight back on the attack. The referee again found himself having to make a decision when Genki sped through on to Pakorn’s delightful lofted pass and was cynically brought down by a defender who was clearly caught the wrong side, and was making no attempt to play the ball. Port, however, were a victim of their previous penalty, as the referee wasn’t about to give a second within a couple of minutes of the first. According to research I have undertaken today, Port were denied by a little known law, found in Section W, Subsection E, Paragraph A, Line K, which is commonly applied by Thai officials.

In the 64th minute Port looked to finally have taken the lead when a cross from Genki was headed goalwards by Suarez. He couldn’t have done much better than heading it down towards the bottom right corner, but somehow Nont once again came to Chiang Rai’s rescue, palming it just wide of the post with Josimar lurking nearby ready to pounce on the rebound. Surely the breakthrough was coming…

Well, it was, but not for the team who deserved it. A cross from deep by Vander Luiz (10) was flicked goalwards by Felipe Azevedo (11), and this time there was nothing that Worawut could do. Chiang Rai had only a couple of chances, but had finished clinically, whereas Port had been creating chances for fun but hadn’t been able to seal the deal. Port weren’t done yet, though.

On 78 minutes, Siwakorn’s well-struck shot was deflected just over the bar, and Port came even closer from the resulting corner. Josimar connected sweetly with a powerful heard from Pakorn’s outswinger, and it took a combination of Nont and the crossbar to deny the Brazilian striker. A couple of minutes later, fantastic work in the build-up by Suarez ended with Josimar missing by what can only have been a couple of inches with a powerful left footed from the edge of the area. He looked as shocked and exasperated as us that he hadn’t managed to score with either of his chances, and with time running out for Port, it was starting to feel like we were heading for the most unjust of defeats.

Chiang Rai threatened to add insult to injury on the break, but the score was to remain 1-2 as Port failed to find the breakthrough in the last 10 minutes. That was no thanks to Tana (99), who for some reason had replaced Genki despite the Japanese winger looking threatening throughout the second half. Tana showed his national team striking instincts by standing about 2 yards offside on the left wing for no reason whatsoever before politely passing the ball to the goalkeeper to waste what should have been Port’s last chance for a goal after some excellent build-up play from Pakorn. Kaludjerovic (10), who had bafflingly replaced the excellent Suarez, could be seen violently gesticulating in his teammate’s direction. We feel your pain, Kalu, and whatever you shouted at him, I’m sure we on the terraces shouted far worse! *cough cough Tim*

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

I haven’t checked, but I’m sure the official award went to Nont, who we will be seeing for Chiang Rai and probably Thailand for many years to come. For Port there are many excellent performances to choose from. Rochela was solid in defence, and should be thanked by Panpanpong for bailing him out on at least 3 occasions when he was caught out of position. Dolah was formidable as usual. Ittipol (7) looks a better bet in central midfield than Adisorn (13), although he only has an hour of football in the tank. Suarez was excellent in central midfield, dropping in and pushing forward at the right time, having one of his most influential games in a Port shirt. Pakorn once again provided the cutting edge, setting up several excellent chances that his teammates failed to convert.

After much head-scratching I’m going to give it to Pakorn, who for me probably had his most complete game for Port. Crossing, dribbling and tracking back were all there, with Suarez a very close second for similar reasons. Well played, lads! If we can reproduce that form just a few more times this season, we will have absolutely nothing to worry about.

 

Port Crush Honda: Port FC 3-1 Thai Honda

 

Zico’s tenure at Port finally moved out of first gear with a 3-1 victory over Thai Honda. Port were in cruise control at 2-0 up, Honda pulled within a car-length before Port applied the nitrous to win comfortably. The feeling of relief was palpable at PAT Stadium, as Zico got his first win as boss and Port put a little more daylight between them and the strugglers, going in to a very tough run of games where points will be at a premium. Honda were, as my preview suggested they would be, pretty awful. Rafinha (7) was their only legitimate threat, with new signing Roninho (77) playing like a one man team and Jesus (9) confined to the bench.

Zico chose not to continue with his back 3 experiment, and his switch back to a system that the players are more comfortable with turned out to be the right decision. That’s not to say that a back 3 isn’t a good option going forward – looking at Port’s personnel it could well be – but it takes time for the players to adapt to a new system like this. Zico went with the system most likely to yield 3 points on the day, and it did just that.

 

 

There were a few interesting decisions to be made with the starting XI, mostly centred around what to do about the absence of Josimar (30). Zico chose to go back to the future, employing an almost identical system to the one Port started the season with against Ratchaburi on the first day of the T1 season. The only change from the XI that started that game was the inclusion of Panpanpong (19) ahead of the departed Piyachart (23, who scored a belter of a freekick for Ubon by the way) showing just how much Port’s squad has been improved since the start of the season. Erm, yeah. That would be not at all.

Nevertheless, with the limited options available, Zico acted decisively, bringing in both Suarez (5) and Kaludjerovic (10) from the cold, as well as giving a start to Piyachat (88) who displaced Adisorn (13) from the starting XI for the first time in what seems like forever. With a goal apiece for Port’s two forwards, it’s hard to argue with his decisions.

 

cr. การท่าเรือ เอฟซี Port FC

 

The game started fairly evenly, with neither side holding back on the attack. Port were the first to create a clear chance, when on 5 minutes a devilish Pakorn (9) cross was flicked on by Kalu in to the path of Genki (18). With about a yard between him and the goal it only needed a touch, but as he did last week against Bangkok United, Genki failed to make contact and the chance went begging.

On 15 minutes, Pakorn fired narrowly over from a free-kick, and 5 minutes after that Kalu almost made a fortuitous breakthrough when he blocked a clearance and the ball ballooned on to the top of the bar and over.

Honda’s next chance was probably the best move of the first half, and it deserved a better finish than the one applied by defensive midfielder Silva (33). Rafinha (7) and Roninho (77)

combined well to send their fellow Brazilian through, and Silva shaped to curl the ball in to the far corner, but struck the ball so poorly that the curl never came and the ball went behind harmlessly for a goal kick. Honda kept the pressure up, with their long-throw expert Meedech (26) showing almost Delap-like technique in his delivery in to the box. He was starved for targets, though, and with Dolah (4) maintaining aerial dominance and Rochela (22) sweeping up everything on the ground Honda could not find a way through.

It was Port who broke the deadlock, but from a very surprising source! Siwakorn (16) received the ball in the middle and played it square to the advancing Panpanpong (19), who looked for all the world as if he was going to cross. I’m sure even his biggest fan wouldn’t have been advising him to shoot, but from all of 30 yards the left-back struck it hard, kept it down and hit the target. The fact that it dipped in front of the keeper made it a little tricky for him, but the ball definitely seemed to be well within reach of Buncha (24) when it went past him. That’s not to take anything away from the left-back, though. It was a superb strike, and is most certainly in contention for a spot in our Goal of the Season short-list.

Port had to be happy with their half-time advantage, but a better performance was going to be needed to secure the points in the second half. Pakorn set about completing the task with some absolutely scorching deliveries. He was finding the danger area with unerring regularity, and more often than not it was Kalu on the end of his crosses. The Serb certainly has a nose for where to position himself to get on the end of balls in to the box, and on 53 minutes he was in prime position to head home a Pakorn free-kick, but somehow contrived to hit the bar from 6 yards.

A minute later Genki made a dog’s breakfast of a half-chance after the ‘keeper got himself in to trouble, leaving him an empty net albeit from a very tight angle. It would have been stunning if he’d found the target, but he should have certainly done better than whacking the ball straight out of play!

In the 59th minute, Suarez almost got a goal worthy of his excellent performance. With fellow midfielders Siwakorn (16) and Piyachat (88) keeping play ticking over, Suarez had been spreading the play well with some superbly struck cross-field passes. The ball sat up nicely for him and he struck a gorgeous volley, which looked to those of us behind the goal to be sailing in to the top corner but for the intervention of Kalu’s back. Having missed a sitter and prevented a teammate scoring, and seemed it was not going to be Kalu’s day.

On 63 minutes, Port went 2-0 up. Another swashbuckling Pakorn delivery caused a headache for the ‘keeper. He seemed undecided whether to block with his hands or feet, and ended up doing neither. The ball fell straight in to the path of Suarez, who calmly slotted home his fourth goal for Port. The visiting group of Suarez groupies wearing Las Palmas shirts erupted in to celebration, as did the rest of the stadium. Unfortunately though, when Port go 2-0 up trouble is usually just around the corner.

 

cr. การท่าเรือ เอฟซี

 

This time it took just 5 minutes for Port to blow their two goal advantage. Dolah (4) lost his balance trying to stop a ball coming in from the left, and when substitute Jesus (9) laid it off to Rafinha (7) there was no stopping his quickly taken strike in to the bottom right corner. Honda kept their foot on the gas, creating a few chances from distance, but nothing they could muster troubled Rattanai (17), who gathered everything that came his way calmly.

In the 78th Port did something completely out of character – they made the game safe! It was another cross from the right, but this time it was Nitipong (34) who found the perfect ball in. Kalu was once again in the right place at the right time, and this time headed the ball down, past Buncha and in to the back of the net. He jumped in to Zone B to celebrate with the fans, where he may or may not have been touched by the hands of these particularly loyal friends we spotted behind the goal.

 

The Sandpit’s Rear of the Year cr. Humans of Thai Port

 

Although the outcome was almost certainly decided, there was still time for Honda striker Thawin (10) to miss an absolutely gilt-edged chance. A deflected strike from Jesus (9) fell straight to him, but somehow from 8 yards out he fired wide when it seemed easier to score than to miss. It was to be the last chance of the game, and a big roar of relief greeted the referee’s whistle. It was a must-win, and Port won. Job done!

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

cr. การท่าเรือ เอฟซี

 

Lots of suggestions came my way for Man of the Match, but I’ve decided to go with Sergio Suarez (5). He clearly didn’t have 90 minutes in him, but the quality of his passing when he was on was a joy to behold. Zico-era Port have been switching the direction of play much more effectively than in the past, and Suarez is probably the best passer in the squad on his day. Honourable mentions must go to Rochela (22), who looked in control throughout, Nitipong (34) who put in a typically tireless performance, Siwakorn (16) who took on more defensive responsibility in the absence of Adisorn (13) and Pakorn (9) whose crossing was as good as it’s ever been.

Isn’t it nice to be spoiled for choice? Well played, Port. Let’s carry that momentum in to the tricky run of fixtures coming up. We can beat anyone on our day!

 

Bangkok United; Port Divided: Port FC 0-3 Bangkok United

 

A very large contingent of Port fans – officially about 6,500 (Ed – LOL) – welcomed Zico to PAT this Sunday as Bangkok United paid a visit.

 

 

Taking my usual perch at the top of Zone A to watch the teams warm up the first thing that struck me was how fit the United players look in comparison to our squad. I must admit a fondness for Bangkok United, partially because one of their players, Anthony, is from my hometown and because the club has been built with a plan from the day they entered the top flight. Each season has seen a better squad and for the most part better results.

United started with their most formidable offensive lineup of Mario (20), Boskovic (7) and Leesaw (14). Also starting was their new Iranian midfielder Pooladi (9). Interestingly enough their other foreign acquisition Ede (17) was not in the matchday squad.

With the exception of Ittipol (7) in the midfield, Worawut (36) in goal, and Nitipong (34) at fullback, the Port lineup was as Tom predicted

As soon as the first whistle blew to begin the match it was obvious that Port were going to play differently in the Zico era. Wider passing lanes were created, passes were quicker, and the opposition was being pressured in their half. Modern football arrives at PAT. Some good early pressure from Port led to a Josi header that missed, but showed promise. Tough play in the opening half led to a slew of “Pakcorners” one of which resulted in a cross that Josi failed to make contact with. Port’s pressure continued to result in possession, but no real quality chances. BU’s Persian, a nasty piece of work, obviously frustrated by Port’s pesky players finally received a yellow after several warnings. One thought for sure if his antics continued he would be sent off. The last minutes of the first half brought BU’s first real chances of the match. First off, a Boskovic free kick that just missed the target and the second when the woodwork was rattled and Port struggled to clear. Port were the better side in the first half, but just as in Suphan the week before, the failure to capitalize was to come back and haunt them.

The second half began with Port in a less aggressive posture. Two quick yellows, one from Pakorn (9) and one from Ittipol (7) seemed to prod the team on a bit. Perhaps our best chance of the night came soon after the yellows when Josi was hit with a pass that saw him in front of the defender. Sadly as we have seen so many times this season, he was unable to convert this into a credible shot. However, Port’s play picked back up and things were looking good until the first substitution, Wuttichai (14) for Ittipol. At this point the game changed dramatically and swung in BU’s favor. No longer were Port the aggressors as Port gifted United the ball several times with a slew of unforced errors. Realizing his big Iranian was riding a yellow, United manager Mano Polking brought in Pokklaw (39) and BU began pushing forward. Pakorn who still does not appear fit after his extended absence from the team was subbed off for Tana (99), who has far from excelled on the wing this year. Mika (16) was removed in favor of Ekkachai (2) and BU were rolling and pushing the ball up at will. Finally it paid off with Nitipong committing a reckless foul in the box and Boskovic converting from the spot. Realizing that Port needed some speed Ekkapoom (8) was brought in for Genki (18), but the speed on the left could not make up for the lack of it on the right and in the middle. Another giveaway led to a Mario goal and Port were done. Just a few minutes later Boskovic scored on the break after heading a pass down to his feet. Zico’s first match ends 0-3.

 

Thoughts on the Match

 

It was great to see Port playing high-tempo modern football. After boring Jadet-ball, if nothing else, Zico will bring some pizzazz to the PAT. It also seems the players like him and will listen to him. With the right squad he could lead us far.

We are not fit enough to play this style for 90 min. One look at our team in comparison to BU tells you quite a bit. The BU players are all lean, ripped, and very well conditioned. I am sure their training methods are state of the art. I would bet they even have a dietician on staff as well. If we are going to compete we need to up the fitness a few notches.

Our offensive players are not producing. The last two matches we have conceded five and scored none. Last week the chances were there; we should have been home and dry by the half, but instead lost 2-0. We just don’t have the quality up front that we need in T1.

The foreign contingent will be the same for the second leg as it was for the first. Honestly, we needed an upgrade and were allowed two moves to do it. Instead we moved Maranhao (29) into the squad for Kalu (10) and then Kalu back into the squad for Maranhao. (Ed – waiting for confirmation on this absolutely damning rumour) To the best of my knowledge this completes our transfer window foreign quota. Just astonishing. How did this happen? One wonders where the goals are going to come from.

Why not bring in Kalu? I certainly expected the first substitution to be Kalu for Josi, not Wuttichai for Ittipol. Perhaps he could have found the target. Why not use him?

One hopes are that Zico saw some of the same things we did tonight and makes adjustments accordingly. There are some personnel issues to be dealt with on the squad.

 

Port FC Man of the Match

 

 

Honorable mentions to Prawinwat (55) and Jetjin (51), but my MOTM goes to Ittipol (7), whose hard-nosed play and passes kept us the better side in the first half. After he was subbed off, it was all downhill.

In closing it was a mixed debut for Zico, A first half filled with promise and a second to forget. I like the style; I just hope we have the men to play it. Goals are going to be tough to come by this leg. That’s obvious. As long as we stay up, that’s all that matters.

It does not get much easier as we are off on Wednesday to play an in-form Navy team at a stadium we have never done well in. We need the three points.

 

Pop-corn, Piss-poor Port and a Proliferation of Pongs: Swatcats 0-0 Port FC

 

“There are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics” (origin unknown, attributed to many).

 

This particular statistic, 0-0, does, indeed, not lie. A more depressing, turgid exhibition of vacuous nothingness it would be hard to find outside of a Jose Mourinho press conference.

At least, for most of us, it had been a welcome chance to visit a new ground. The stadium, built for the late King’s 80th birthday anniversary, was completed in 2007 and, along with the surrounding sports complex, was used to host the South-East Asian Games that same year. Situated just outside the main city, it has a fairly pleasant aspect, impressive floodlights and the inevitable running track, although the elevated view, for one of at least eagle vision, is not a significant drawback.

 

 

On a quiet Sunday though there was little gastronomic fare to appease the appetites  of the decent away crowd. I did manage to pick up a reasonably acceptable Pork laap with rice, only to find that my fellow farang travellers were munching on pop-corn on the stadium steps. Popcorn?! Popcorn?! FFS lads – this is a football match, not a bleeding Pixar movie! Hang your collective heads in Bovril soaked shame. Just try asking for a bag at Wigan Athletic!

Once inside the mostly uncovered, all-seater ground, with an official capacity of  24,641, we were disappointed to see the sparse home crowd dotted like a scatter graph of rainfall in the Sahara Desert. This is a club who, only a few years ago, were one of the best and most passionately supported clubs in the country, boasting the highest ever home attendance in the Premier League when they hosted Buriram in July 2015. The crowd that day was a rib-breaking 34,689 (official capacity 24,641). More on this and other Thai grounds in the Sandpit next month.

As implied, the view was unimpaired and the pattern of play fairly easy to follow, even if, with my gradually deteriorating eyesight, individual players could not. I can confidently say that both teams started with eleven men; one lot were dressed in black shirts (who must have been Port because I was wearing one as well) and the other in orange. Some Port players were instantly recognizable by their size and stature: Dolah is tall and Tana is not; Siwakorn is skinny but talented whilst Pakorn…

 

Pakorn does have a left foot!

 

The numbers on their backs also gave somewhat of a clue, their linear form being just discernibly visible from a distance of 150 metres, and provoked memories from days ill-spent in local Bingo halls: Piyachat 88 (two fat ladies); Rochela 22 (two little ducks) were the most distinctive, while Josimar 30 (Burlington Bertie), quickly established his particular identity with a couple of ballooned shots over the bar.

 

Josimar aims for the popcorn bag

 

At one time we had, so I believed, an assortment of players whose names ended in Pong. What we would have given for one of our ill-directed shots to have Pinged off a Pong and into the net. Not only would it have had a certain rhythmic assonance, but the victory that would have surely ensued would have lightened up the four hour journey home. I’m not quite sure what the real collective name is for a group of Pongs – probably a ‘Putridity’ given their overall performance.

The journey up had had its moments of light relief. John had cunningly adapted Dominic’s legendary Chiang Rai ditty, ‘A win away, a win away’, adding a few words of his own and proceeded to sing it in a voice suggestive of John Denver on nitrous oxide. Linny had tried to drag us out of the culinary gutter (I had started the day with a full English) by diverting the bus to a posh restaurant and winery on the outskirts of Khao Yai National Park. Whilst nobody had a ‘Sideways’ moment and swigged down a whole bottle of Pinot Noir, it did add a certain touch of class to the journey, although, back where I come from, the only wine regularly enjoyed by the locals has an ‘h’ in it. The restaurant certainly seemed to be encouraging a bit of drunkenness; even the menu was leathered.

 

 

Oh, before I forget, there was a football match.  I knew we had gone there for something. However, there were really few incidents of note to report. The Port Lions started promisingly, getting their claws into the Swat Cats, who seemed to be suffering from a night on the tiles, but the home team gradually started feline their way into the game, slinging in a few airballs to test Worawut’s (36) handling and the pattern of  play was set. Port scratched around for a few chances without finding the purrfect rhythm to upset their hosts.

At times, Port played the ball neatly out to the wings, only to cross it into the nearest defender, the stand (no mean feat), the long jump pit or a stray popcorn bag. There were a few goalmouth scrambles at both ends, Tana (99) missed another 6 yarder, Worawut dropped the ball with alarming regularity and Siwakorn (16) collected his obligatory yellow card, thereby, once again, curbing his enthusiasm for decisive tackling later on. No-one loves Siwakorn more as a player than me (or Keith) but his recklessness is damaging not only to him but the team. Most of his tackles are in the opponent’s half where any danger is minimal. Personally, I would haul him off after the next inevitable yellow as a warning – he is not a teenager any more.

Genki (18) ‘ran abaht a bit’, Tana and Pakorn (9) didn’t; Josimar (30) looked like he was running through treacle (although to be fair, the playing surface was sodden and challenging, to say the least); only Dolah (4) and Captain Fantastic (22) came out with any real credit – Dolah, my MOM.

 

Our Man of the Match – Elias Dolah

 

I think the whole game was summed up when the Swat Cat right back sent the ball ballooning towards the corner flag to his right with an attempted cross to the left. One didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Did we have a great time, though? Yes, we bloody well did! See you all in Sisaket!

 

Fire Bats Extinguished: Sukhothai 2-3 Port FC

 

The Trip

I should preface this little adventure with a disclaimer… Most of my expat Bangkok acquaintances  seem to be retired amateur beer sommeliers or slightly dodgy teachers; frankly a somewhat lo-so crowd. Which is how I like it.

However, there are one or two exceptions. Up-market folk who own a motorbike or 2 pairs of shoes. It was with one of the latter I journeyed to Sunday’s game – flying up to Phitsanulok, just the 2 of us in his plane. In Sukhothai things got even better. In search of dinner we followed some twinkling lights into a lovely family restaurant that seemed to be having a birthday party BBQ. After the familiar ‘Blimey, it’s a farang!’ stares we were told to help ourselves to anything. A dozen prawns and a couple of crabs  later we  asked for the bill, only to be told  it was free as we’d hardly eaten anything.

 

The Stadium

Now, to the stadium. The Thung Thalay Luang stadium is a neat 8,000 all-seater job, but the location is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The nearest building must be over 3 miles away and it sits beside a lake. On arrival, I realized I’d left my specs in the hotel, so everything was a bit blurry. And that was before the Chang.

 

The Game

Port’s relationship with Brazilian strikers seems to be characterized by blind faith over reality. When I first saw Port it was the tail end of Leandro’s reign.I remember him showboating with the ball at his feet doing the Grobbelar Wobbly knees routine to the delight of those around. The problem was there were 10 minutes to go and we were 1-3 down. In that moment I realized the Thai league was not like home, where such a display would ensure you’d played your last game.

Then last season we were all  aghast at Thiago Cunha – a man who appeared to have bet on himself to get the quickest red card  in history. I remember what I think was his last appearance, when he seemed to be having some kind of mental breakdown on the pitch. It was clear to all (except the coach) where things were heading, so much so that Madame had to leave her seat and pull him off herself (so to speak).

Now its Josimar (30). Already derided by some as lacking skill, speed, heart etc. but showing a talent for being in the right place and applying the vital touch. It took him 10 minutes to put Port 1-0 up, heading in an inch-perfect cross from Pakorn (9), who turned smartly on the right hand side and showed impressive accuracy with his weaker foot to curl the ball in to the corridor of uncertainty where Josimar was lurking. Then our tactics became unfathomable, and the Brazilian was left stranded up field as we elected to run the clock down, relying heavily on the Fire Bats incompetence and Worawut’s (36) excellence. About half an hour into the game Port had a free kick on the halfway line, and we kept 6 (honestly – 6) players behind the ball.

In the second half Josimar struck again, pouncing on a mistake from the keeper, who failed to gather Tana’s (99) cross from the left hand side. Josimar applied the simplest of finishes, but he was outshone just minutes later by Sukhothai defender Hiromichi Katano (4) who spectacularly smashed the ball in to the back of his own net in a way Josimar could only have dreamed of. 3-0! Time to relax & have fun… well not quite . 2 goals in 2 minutes got the home fans cheering and our time wasting tactics came to the fore again. We survived. Just about!

There’s nothing better than seeing 2 coach loads of Port fans pull into the car park, making more noise than the home crowd having set off from PAT at 08:30. What a great bunch – my men of the match!

 

The Sandpit’s Port FC Man of the Match

 

Josimar’s goals may have both come from inside the 6 yard box, but that’s where you want your striker! Josimar found space to nod in a simple header from Pakorn’s cross in the first half, then smartly followed in Tana’s cross and capitalized on the keeper’s error in the second half.

An honourable mention must also go to goalkeeper Worawut, who preserved Port’s lead with some outstanding reaction saves. What a man to have as second choice ‘keeper!

 

It’s a Shame About Rayong: PTT 1-3 Port FC (Friendly)

 

Port won their fourth friendly in a row against PTT Rayong. The first half was played at a competitive pace with reasonable strength sides. The second saw a string of substitutions from both sides and was effectively a training exercise.

For the first time this pre-season Port started with a 4-4-2. Jadet maybe looking for a way to include Tana and Kaluderovic in the starting team. Maybe it’s a plan for a more attacking set up he wants to use in home games or when we need a result.

Starting line up was:

Weera (surprise start for the third choice keeper)

Nitipong Rochela Dolah Panpanpong

Pakorn, Suarez, Piyachaat Ekkapoom

Tana, Kaluderovic (I think I’ll call him Kalu from now on, that’s what the players were shouting today.)

Port dominated the 1st half, lots of chances. Port looked good as they should do against T2 opposition. Convincing as they were Port did miss Siwakorn in midfield and Meechok at right back both out injured. Tana starting is a good sign last game he only got five minutes at the end of the match.

The first half saw Pakorn getting forward and causing trouble for PTT. In the 4-4-2 Suarez held back a bit more than in previous games, but was still making runs into the box. Tana shot wide twice early on with Port looking to get first blood. Then Ekkapoom got a bit of space and played a decent ball across for Pakorn to knock in Port’s first goal.

For the second Pakorn made a good run wrestling past two defenders to get the ball to Ekkapoom who then tipped the ball across for Kalu to score.

PTT applied some pressure and got a debatable penalty there was contact, not a nailed on pen but a fair call.  A fairly soft spot kick was tucked away on the left, Weera went to his right.  2-1 to Port  a fair reflection of the first half. Tana and Kalu were OK up front for a first outing. Ekkpoom was involved in most of the attacking play, but he is still making too many unforced errors.

The second half saw a ton of substitutions from both sides. It was difficult to keep up with who was where. I kept asking Tom “who’s that bloke again?” Half the players had different numbers it was a mess. Most notably Worawut was back in goal for Port, he looked at home.

The revolving door substitutions broke up play for most of the second half. At the beginning of the second PTT had a bit more of the game forcing two corners in quick succession. They were unable to capitalise on the pressure they created their best chance hitting the woodwork.

On the 60 minute mark a mass of substitutes came on for PTT, 10 minutes later Port did the same thing. I’d say Port had the run of the game but only just. On 79 minutes the PTT keeper was unable to hold on to a decent shot and Gengki was on hand to turn in the ball from five yards out. The game finished 3-1

Notable points for Port in the second half.

Pinyo came on and played about 25 minutes. He looked good on the left wing, setting up a good shot for Asdrubal which he skyed, then minutes later skyed a shot of his own. If his is capable on the left wing and is back to 80% fitness I think we should try him there.

Marahao is still around he was his usual full pace self dancing round defenders. Being around this close to the beginning of the season suggests maybe he is there in case someone else pulls out of the squad because of injury. Possibly Asdrubal, but his injury is meant to be just a minor one. I think he’s around in case someone has a serious problem.

Speaking of Asdrubal he played his first game. He was ok for a player making his first pre-season appearance. Worryingly he did occasionally hold on to his leg and didn’t look 100%. People are saying it’s a small problem, but it’s not good for one of our foreign players injured before the season even starts.

The only two players that stayed around for most of the game were Pakorn and Piyachaat Srimarueang (38). It’s no surprise to see Pakorn on for 80% of the game but Piyachat is a bit more surprising. It looks like Piyachat might be edging out other midfield players for a starting place. Tatchanon also had another good game in central midfield.

This week’s new signing “Mr. Nirun”, the other half Thai half Swedish Port player came on and he played central defence. So at least we know where he plays now even if we don’t know his second name.

Another win for Port is always good to see. There are still some questions around this squad. If Siwakorn and Meechok are back on the first day of the season we should be in good shape to get a result against Ratchaburi at PAT Stadium.